Pitching a Fit in the Grocery Store

Do you remember a time when your child pitched a fit in the grocery store? It’s one thing to handle a temper tantrum at home. But when it’s in public – like at the grocery store with everyone watching – that’s enough to test everything you know. Some people may give you that “why don’t you do something with your kid” look while others shoot you a sympathizing “I’ve been there” look. Either way you are probably embarrassed or frustrated or tired or just ready to throw up your hands.

We are most apt to have shopping disasters when we make those stops at the grocery store at the end of a busy day. Are you and your child too tired or hungry to shop? If so, a major tantrum is a high possibility. Children usually behave better when everyone is more relaxed and happy so plan the best time for the shopping trip. Be clear about expectations before you go in the store – stay in the cart, hold my hand, use indoor voice. Also decide together what will happen if your child behaves at the store. Keep it simple. Perhaps you stop for an ice cream cone on the way home or promise to play a favorite game when you get home.

Once you’re in the store, make a game of the shopping. Or give your child some choices (this or that cereal, red or yellow apples). Give him a responsibility like holding the bread or steering the cart. Praise him often to reinforce good behavior. “You are really helping Mommy by putting the cans in the cart.”

Okay, so even though we’ve done all the planning and talking, we can still end up with an out-of-control child. If that happens, take her to the restroom or out of the store away from other people and distractions. Tell her that her behavior is not acceptable and then wait – wait for her to calm down. If she is ready to try it again, go for it. If not, go home. And don’t go back in and buy her a treat where she just pitched a fit!!

What do you do when your child throws a tantrum in the grocery store? Any tips on calming down both parent and child?

Donna Donald

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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